Biography (SGYY): Wen Yang

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Wen Yang
Lifespan: Unlisted

Sanguo yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by Sam Wrest
Proofread by Mike Holmes

Wen Yang

Wen Yang was the son of Wen Qin, Imperial inspector of Yangzhou. Yang stood at eight spans tall and was a greatly gifted martial combatant.

When Sima Shi deposed the Emperor Cao Fang and established Cao Mao as the new sovereign of the Wei dynasty, Wen Yang’s father, Wen Qin, along with Controller of the East, General Guanqiu Jian, advanced on the capital in force, their intent to eliminate Sima Shi for his betrayal to the dynasty. Claiming to have a secret edict from the queen mother, Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin mustered a joint force of eighty thousand. Guanqiu Jian led sixty thousand troops forth and occupied Xiangcheng, while Wen Yang accompanied his father and led twenty thousand, circling outside the town to provide support. Men from the surrounding districts gladly joined the cause to eliminate Sima Shi.

When Deng Ai, a general serving Sima Shi, began marching onto Xiangcheng from Yuejia, Guanqiu Jian began to worry and summoned Wen Qin to his camp. “Field Marshal, do not worry,” said Qin, “My son Yang and I can secure the town with five thousand men.” Consequently, Wen Yang, with his father, proceeded to Yuejia with five thousand troops. The forward army reported back, “Wei troops—more than ten thousand—have massed west of the city. We saw their main army in the distance, with the white yak-tail banner and gilded battle-axe of command, the black umbrella and vermilion pennants clustered around the command tent. High above the tent flew a flag woven with the commanding general’s name: Sima Shi. However, they have not finished establishing their camps.” Wen Yang, armed with a steel whip, said, “Before they finish the camps, attack from both sides and overwhelm them.” “When?” asked his father, Qin. “At dusk,” Wen Yang answered. “You take twenty-five hundred and strike from the south; I will strike from the north with the same number. During the third watch we will rendezvous in the Wei camp.” His father agreed and put Wen Yang’s plan into action. Yang was just eighteen at the time. Wrapped in mail, his steel whip at his waist, he hefted his spear and mounted, heading straight towards the Wei camp.

At the third watch, Wen Yang attacked Sima Shi’s encampments and broke through his northern perimeter, slaughtering many. Few dared to challenge his ferocity, and those that did were either stabbed or whipped to death. Wen Yang looked for his father’s arrival to lend support, but he did not appear. Each time Yang fought his way towards Wei’s main force, bowshots drove him back; but Wen Yang fought on. When the morning sky began to lighten, he heard at last the sounds of drums and horns filling the air on the north side. Wen Yang asked his followers, “Why is my father coming from the north and not the south?” He raced ahead to look only to find a company of troops commanded by Deng Ai. “Stand your ground, rebel!” he shouted. In a fury, Wen Yang raised his spear and engaged Deng Ai, but after fifty bouts, neither had prevailed.

As Wen Yang and Deng Ai’s struggle continued, Wei’s soldiers moved in from front and rear—Wen Yang’s unit panicked and fled. Abandoned by his men, Wen Yang, riding alone, broke through the Wei line and began fleeing to the south. Hundreds of Wei officers bore down on him as he neared Yuejia bridge. Wen Yang then wheeled around and, with a powerful shout, plunged back into the Wei line. Plying his steel whip, he knocked riders from their mounts on all sides. As the Wei ranks fell back, Wen Yang proceeded unhurried. The Wei officers gathered together and cried in dismay, “Can one man push back so many of us? Let’s join forces and pursue him again,” and one hundred Wei officers began riding after Yang once again. Exploding in anger, Wen Yang cried, “These rats hold their lives cheap!” Raising his whip and rousing his mount, he charged into the thick of the Wei officers. After killing a number of them, Wen Yang swung his horse back around again and continued unhurried on his way. In the same manner, Wen Yang foiled each attempt of the officers to pursue him. Sima Shi was so shocked at his ferocity that upon learning of the attack, his eye burst out of its socket. (1) A poet of later times left these lines in Wen Yang’s praise:

1: Sima Shi had developed a tumour in his left eye and suffered from frequent pain and itching, hence its popping out of its socket. Sima Shi died soon after Wen Yang’s attack on his camp.
Alone at Steepslope holding Cao Cao off,
Zilong came to fame, a prodigy of war.
Now Wen Yang crossing points in Yuejia town
Shows courage worthy of comparison.

Travelling south, Wen Yang eventually met up with his father, Qin. Wen Qin explained to his son that the reason he had not joined him in the attack on Wei’s encampments was the sharp and irregular mountain roads leading to Yuejia, which had led him into the wrong valley. Wen Qin also informed Yang that Xiangcheng had been lost and Guanqiu Jian killed, and so the two started off to Wu to offer their services to its ruler, Sun Liang. (2) Liang gave Wen Yang and his father rank in the kingdom of Wu and the two remained there for some time. During that time, Sun Jun, the prime minister of Wu, died of illness and Sun Chen, his cousin, took on the responsibilities of his office.

2: When Wen Yang actually joined his father is uncertain, but the time I listed in his biography accords well with his appearances later in SGYY.

When Sun Chen sent seventy thousand troops to aid Zhuge Dan in his revolt against Sima Zhao, Wen Yang, his father, Qin, and his brother, Hu, were all appointed as guides. The three set out separately to Wu’s forces and met up with Zhuge Dan. After learning that Wu’s vanguard commander, Zhu Yi, had been defeated by the Wei general Wang Ji, the four led tens of thousands of troops against Sima Zhao. However, Zhuge Dan was ambushed and defeated by Zhao’s force and fled to Shouchun, sealing the gates in preparation for a long defence, while Wen Yang, his father, and his brother joined forces with Zhu Yi. Yu Quan, a Wu general, proposed to Zhu Yi that he take ten thousand men to aid Zhuge Dan in the defence of Shouchun, to which Zhu Yi agreed. Wen Yang, Qin and Hu all joined the rescue force, and successfully battled their way into Shouchun and joined in its defence.

Within the city, food began to run short. Wen Yang, his father, and his brother, made a determined stand at a rampart, but more and more of the defenders collapsed from hunger. Yang’s father, Qin, informed Zhuge Dan, “Our grain is nearly gone. The men are famished. To save food, I think we should let out all your troops from the north.” Zhuge Dan retorted hotly, “Are you conspiring against me, telling me to send out my troops from the north?” Dan then had Wen Qin executed. Seeing his father killed, Wen Yang, along with his brother, Hu, drew his sword and dispatched several score of men. He then leaped to the top of the wall, dropped to the other side, and went to the Wei camp to surrender. Initially, Sima Zhao wanted to execute Wen Yang for single-handily driving back his brothers forces at Yuejia, but Zhong Hui, a northern commander, dissuaded him, and Yang was called into Sima Zhao’s tent. Yang was given a fine horse, damask clothes, a high command, and enfeoffed as an honorary lord.

Wen Yang later circled Shouchun’s wall and shouted up, “The Regent-Marshal has forgiven my crimes and awarded me rank. All of you should surrender quickly.” Hearing his voice, those inside thought to themselves, “Wen Yang is Sima Zhao’s enemy. If even he is given high office, would we be given less?” And so all decided to surrender. Unable to put up an efficient defence, Zhuge Dan was killed and Shouchun returned to Wei.

How and when Wen Yang died is unknown, but with no evidence to suggest otherwise, he most likely went on to serve the kingdom of Jin following Sima Yan’s (Sima Zhao’s son) usurpation of the Wei dynasty.

Copyright © 2004 Sam Wrest
Based on the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong